Thursday, October 13, 2005

Foreign ministers urge end to Cuba embargo


SALAMANCA, Spain -- Foreign ministers from Latin America, Spain and Portugal backed Cuba on Thursday in two of its battles against the United States, calling for an end to the U.S. embargo and the expulsion from the U.S. of a Cuban militant wanted for a 1976 plane bombing.

The foreign ministers, meeting in the Spanish city of Salamanca a day before 20 heads of state gather for the 15th Iberoamerican Summit, urged the United States "to put an end to the financial, commercial and economic blockade which it maintains against Cuba."

"We reaffirm once more ... that unilateral coercive measures which affect the welfare of people and obstruct integration processes are unacceptable," the ministers said.

The U.S. sanctions, which aim to squeeze the island's economy and push out Cuban President Fidel Castro, are now in their fifth decade. President Bush has sought more stringent enforcement of provisions forbidding most travel to the island.

Cuba claims the embargo has cost it $82 billion.

The foreign ministers also backed Venezuela's efforts have a Cuban militant extradited from the United States to face trial for allegedly masterminding the Oct. 6, 1976 bombing of a Cuban jet that killed 73 people.

Luis Posada Carriles, a Cuban native who became a naturalized Venezuelan, is in a U.S. detention center in El Paso, Texas after allegedly crossing into the United States illegally from Mexico in March.

Cuba and others have been clamoring for him to be sent to Venezuela to stand trial for allegedly plotting the bombing from the South American country, but an immigration judge declared last week he could not be deported there, citing the possibility he would face torture - a claim denied by Venezuela.

Venezuela has said that if the United States tries to deport Posada to a third country, it would request his extradition from that government.

The ministers said they "backed moves to obtain the extradition and bring to justice the person responsible for the terrorist attack on a Cubana Aviation plane in October 1976."


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